There’s really no way to sugarcoat the Falcons’ absolute nightmare of a season opener, so I won’t try. This is supposed to be a positive piece, after all, calling attention to the best player of the week for Atlanta! Suffice it to say, the team was pretty much blown off the turf in the second half after the offense completely stalled out and hung the defense out to dry. There were a few bright spots, however, and we’ll touch on perhaps the most surprising (and potentially impactful) one: the emergence of running back Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson, a former All-Pro kick returner and part-time wide receiver/running back hybrid, spent the past two years with the Chicago Bears before joining the Atlanta Falcons this offseason. Atlanta gave Patterson a one-year, $3 million contract—the second-largest contract of any free agent signing, just behind OT Matt Gono’s $3.384 million second-round RFA tender. That move was a bit surprising, considering the multitude of needs and the very limited salary cap space.
With Patterson’s Week 1 performance, however, maybe it isn’t so surprising. Patterson’s ability as a kick returner is obviously a huge asset, as he’s had a kickoff return TD in each of the past three seasons. His very presence is an advantage in itself: Teams will be much less likely to kick short of the end zone due to his ability to take the ball to the house on any return.
Normally, you’d expect Patterson to get this Player of the Week designation due to a tremendous special teams performance. But it was actually Patterson’s strong day as a runner and receiver that earns him this award. Patterson ended the game as Atlanta’s most productive offensive player, netting 54 yards on seven carries (an excellent 7.7 YPC) to go along with two catches for 13 yards.
Patterson ran with speed, physicality, and surprising agility. Those are all hallmarks of his game as a returner, obviously, but the fact that he can do it at 6’2 and over 230 pounds is very impressive. Behind a very shaky offensive line, Patterson managed to find room to run and even pulled off a first down carry on 3rd-and-9. He out-gained fellow RB Mike Davis on half as many carries, making his day appear even more impressive.
Patterson’s career as a wide receiver never really took off, as he was best utilized as a reserve player there. Perhaps his best position is running back—if used correctly, that is. Chicago never really figured out how to utilize him out of the backfield, as he averaged a poor 3.6 YPC on a career-high 64 carries in 2020. Arthur Smith, at least through the first game of the season, seems to have a better feel for Patterson’s running style.
We’ll see if Patterson can continue to play a productive offensive role for the Falcons. In Week 1, he earns the distinguished honor of Player of the Week. Maybe that’s not saying much, considering Atlanta was blown out to the tune of 32-6, but at least someone had a good day against the Philadelphia Eagles.